It’s between Starmer, Long-Bailey and Nandy. Nearly 7 weeks to go.

Sienna Rodgers
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Emily Thornberry is out of the running, having failed to reach the nomination threshold by just two local parties, and Labour’s leadership election is down to three. Party members, affiliates and supporters will have a choice of three: Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey or Lisa Nandy. By the close of the nominations window on Friday, Starmer had 374 CLPs and five trade unions – way ahead of Long-Bailey (164 CLPs and five unions) and Nandy (72 CLPs and two unions). Meanwhile, all five deputy leadership hopefuls secured places on the ballot paper in the other contest, where Angela Rayner is the clear frontrunner.

Every candidate participated in more official party hustings over the weekend, and you can read my write-up of the debate in London on Sunday here. The key moments were Long-Bailey’s willingness to criticise Starmer by implication, saying she won’t “look and sound like the establishment”, while the Holborn MP made clear he was the frontrunner by praising his rivals. But the most newsworthy comments actually appeared in the deputy hustings, which was watched by even fewer people.

The subject was the BBC, in light of the government mulling over whether to scrap the licence fee and replace it with a subscription model. Rayner described herself as “no big fan of the BBC” and Dawn Butler said it was “the Tory PR machine” during the election, while Richard Burgon simply noted that he had been “disappointed” by its political news output. Ian Murray, the most Corbynsceptic candidate, stood out with a passionate defence of the public service broadcaster. While each of the contenders expressed an interest in preventing an overhaul such as the one being floated by Boris Johnson, they made their cases in starkly different ways.

There is another, more emotionally charged, debate being conducted within Labour at the moment. It was sparked this time by a Laura Pidcock article for Tribune, in which she said: “The women’s movement needs the space to talk about sex and gender, without fear of being ‘no platformed’.” She now chairs Burgon’s campaign. The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights then put out 12 pledges, which all main leadership candidates have signed apart from Starmer. Explaining this decision, he said last week that “we need to dial this down”.

Over the weekend, Long-Bailey appeared to deny that she thought Woman’s Place UK was a “hate group”, as stated in the pledges. But she also argued: “There’s no conflict between the rights of women and safety in particular places and trans rights.” At an event on Sunday afternoon, Nandy was confronted with specific questions over where violent sexual offenders who are trans should be placed in prisons and how their crimes should be recorded. Her responses unambiguously stuck by the application of self-ID.

It would appear that the current views of Long-Bailey and Nandy go against Labour’s 2019 manifesto, which pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act but also to end mixed-sex wards in hospitals and “ensure that single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are… fully enforced”. Though it must be said that they only ‘appear’ to do so, because there was a row at the time over how these pledges should be interpreted, with the Shadow Equalities Secretary having a different reading of them to key members of the ‘Clause V’ manifesto meeting. Will the party have a completely clear policy on these areas come the next election?

Sienna @siennamarla

  • Today: Channel 4 leadership hustings (8pm) 
  • Wednesday: Keir Starmer speech at the RSA (9.30am)
  • Thursday: LGBT+ Labour hustings in Manchester (6.30pm)
  • Saturday: Peterborough and Bedford party leadership hustings
  • Sunday: Durham party leadership hustings

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